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Open Letter to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court

Civil Society Organizations Call on Prosecutor to Investigate and Deter Crimes in Palestine

November 23, 2022

Mr Karim A. A. Khan KC
Office of the Prosecutor
International Criminal Court
Oude Waalsdorperweg 10
The Hague, The Netherlands

Dear Mr. Prosecutor,

We, the undersigned, are Palestinian, regional, and international civil society organizations (CSOs), including those outlawed by Israel for our accountability work, monitoring and documenting violations of international law, including war crimes and crimes against humanity against Palestinian victims.

As the Prosecutor of the world’s permanent International Criminal Court (ICC), a court of last resort for victims of the most serious crimes, your mandate provides the opportunity, not only to investigate international crimes but also to monitor the situation investigated by your office and to perform an early warning function. In particular, the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) policy paper provides for deterrent preventive statements that “will allow the Office to react promptly to upsurges of violence by reinforcing early interaction with States, international organizations and non-governmental organizations in order to verify information on alleged crimes, to encourage genuine national proceedings and to prevent reoccurrence of crimes.”

The OTP has issued multiple preventive statements on the situation in Palestine, including on the May 2021 escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and regarding the worsening situation in Gaza during the mass demonstrations of the Great March of Return in April 2018. The effectiveness of such statements in providing sufficient deterrence has been proven on several occasions, for example, when former Prosecutor Bensouda issued a preventive statement regarding the planned forced evictions of the Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank, the then-Israeli Foreign Minister confirmed that Israel did not evict Khan al-Ahmar out of concerns of an ICC investigation. This unequivocally shows that such preventive statements can provide sufficient deterrence.

There have been important missed opportunities for preventive statements in the past year. For example, no preventative statement was issued during the latest 3-day Israeli military offensive on the Gaza Strip between 5-7 August 2022, launched without clear provocation and which resulted in 49 casualties, including 35 civilians, of whom, 17 were children and 4 were women. Similarly, no such statements were issued when the Israeli military raided and assaulted worshipers at Al-Aqsa Mosque and Al-Haram Al-Sharif compound in occupied East Jerusalem, the third holiest religious site for Muslims. The incursions took place during Ramadan, the holiest month of the Muslim calendar, in an escalation that gravely threatened regional peace and security. Notably, a statement from the Prosecutor –that the OTP is monitoring the situation and that any serious crimes committed may be included in your office’s investigation– can provide the required deterrence and help reduce Palestinian victims’ suffering.

On 22 October 2021, Israel’s Defence Minister designated six prominent Palestinian civil society organizations as “terrorist organizations”. The designations have been internationally condemned by the European Union, several State Parties, and UN Experts including the UN Special Rapporteur on Counter Terrorism, and the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, amongst others. Three of these organizations, namely Al-Haq, Addameer, and Defense for Children International – Palestine, have been providing the OTP with information regarding alleged serious crimes committed by Israeli nationals within the jurisdiction of the Court.

The designation of the leading Palestinian civil society organizations is the latest in an orchestrated campaign of repression against the organizations, apparently in large part because of their constructive engagement with your office. In its 2016 report on preliminary examination activities, your office acknowledged, without attributing the threats to a particular source, that “staff members of certain [Palestinian] organizations that have gathered information of relevance to the Office of the Prosecutor’s preliminary examination, such as Al-Haq and Al Mezan, have been subjected to threats and other apparent acts of intimidation and interference”. We note that the  Apartheid Convention, which should be used a guide in interpreting this definition, specifically lists as an “inhuman act” of apartheid, the “persecution of organizations and persons by depriving them of fundamental rights and freedoms, because they oppose apartheid”.

On 18 August 2022, Israeli forces raided the headquarters of the six organizations: Al-Haq, Addameer, Defence for Children International – Palestine, the Bisan Center for Research and Development, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, along with the Union of Health Work Committees. The Israeli military confiscated computers and equipment, sealed entrance doors and formally closed the organizations under military orders. Such acts by the Israeli military of “tampering with or interfering with the collection of evidence”, when at the trial stage, for example, may amount to “offences against the administration of justice” as stipulated by Article 70 of the Rome Statute.

As you are well aware, Israel systematically denies many international organizations access to the occupied Palestinian territory, including the UN Special Rapporteurs and Commissions of Inquiries. As a result, one of the only ways the international community and the relevant investigative bodies, including the ICC, have access to the victims and communities in Palestine is through Palestinian CSOs. Although Israel’s targeting of these organizations could hinder the work of the ICC, there has been no public reaction by your office. We recall that when the Court and its staff were threatened and sanctioned, by the Trump administration under US Executive Order 13928, civil society and human rights defenders from across the world, including ourselves, stood up for the Court and called on the threats to stop and sanctions to be rescinded.

Palestinian CSOs have been submitting vital communications to your office and played a pivotal role in advocating for the State of Palestine’s accession to the Rome Statute. Palestinian organizations will continue to support the ICC in its efforts to end impunity. Though mindful of the Court’s limited resources and budgetary complications, as well as your office workload and challenges, we are compelled to stress that Palestinian victims deserve justice and require equal attention as in other situations. Thus, we, including signatories who are representatives of Palestinian victims, urgently invite you to conduct a visit with your team to the occupied Palestine territory, i.e., the West Bank including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. The duty to defend and promote Palestinian victims' rights to access justice is a shared one. To that end, we will continue our cooperation with your office and our support of your investigation into the Situation in the State of Palestine.

In conclusion, as part of your ongoing investigation, we call on your Office to:

  1. Publicly condemn and call for the rescinding of Israel’s designations of Palestinian CSOs;
  2. Publicly affirm that the alleged crimes committed during Israel’s unprovoked military offensive on Gaza in August 2022 will be scrutinized as part of your investigation into the Situation in Palestine
  3. Urgently expedite your investigation into the Situation of Palestine, including the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution;
  4. Issue preventive statements to deter Israeli practices that may contribute to ongoing crimes against humanity and war crimes, entailing that all alleged crimes committed in Palestine, including the persecution of Palestinian organizations as an inhumane act of the crime against humanity of apartheid, will be examined by your office and included in its current investigation.
  5. Operating under Part 9 of the Rome Statute, call upon Jordan and Palestine, as ICC States Parties, and other non-state parties, including Egypt, to cooperate with your Office in facilitating the opening of a country office in Palestine, and in arranging an urgent visit to Palestine, especially to Gaza; and
  6. Take appropriate action, within the confines of the exercise of your mandate under the Rome Statute, with a view towards preventing and deterring the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the situation in Palestine.

We remain at your disposal and stand ready to provide further information to assist your investigation.

Yours sincerely,

  1. Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Mankind (Al-Haq)
  2. Al Mezan Center For Human Rights
  3. Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association (Addameer)
  4. Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P)
  5. Bisan Center for Research and Development (Bisan Center)
  6. The Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC)
  7. The Union of Palestinian Women Committees (UPWC)
  8. Health Work Committees (HWC)
  9. Abdel ـ Shafi Community Health Association (ACHA)
  10. Act for Conflict Resolution
  11. Afaq Jadeeda Association
  12. Afkar Foundation for Educational and Cultural Development
  13. Agricultural Guiding and Awareness Society
  14. Aisha Association for Woman & Child Protection
  15. Al Awda Health and Community Association
  16. Al Foukhary Association for Development and Culture
  17. Al Mada Foundation for Community Development through the Arts
  18. Al Najda Social Association
  19. Al Sattar Garbee Association for Developing Countryside and Farmer
  20. Alahleya Society for Development of Palm and Dates
  21. Alanqaa Association for Community Development
  22. Al-Atta Charitable Society
  23. Al-Awda Center for Childhood and the Youth Rehabilitation
  24. Al-Dameer Association for Human Rights –Gaza
  25. Al-Ghad al-Jadid Center for Palestinian Democratic Youth
  26. AL-Karmel Cultural and Social Development Association
  27. Almanal Society for Developing the Rural Women
  28. Almuntada Cultural Center in Beit Annan
  29. Alrowwad for cultural and arts society
  30. Al-Taghreed Society for Culture and Art
  31. American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)
  32. Amnesty International
  33. Applied Research Institute/ ARIJ
  34. Arab Agricultural Engineers Association.
  35. Arab Center for Agricultural Development
  36. Arab Centre for Agricultural Development (ACAD) /Ramallah – Gaza
  37. Arab Women's Union Society
  38. Asociación Americana de Juristas/ American Association of Jurists (AAJ)
  39. Asociación Venezolana de Juristas, Venezuela.
  40. Association des Universitaires pour le Respect du Droit International en Palestine (AURDIP)
  41. Association France Palestine Solidarité (AFPS)
  42. Association Switzerland Palestine
  43. Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children
  44. BADIL - Palestinian Resource Center for Residency and Refugee Rights
  45. Bait Al Mostaqbal Association
  46. Basma Society for Culture and Arts
  47. BDS Netherlands
  48. Belgian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (BACBI), Belgium.
  49. Boycott Israel Network (UK)
  50. Burj Alluqluq Social Center Society
  51. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.
  52. Canadian BDS Coalition
  53. Canadians for Peace and Justice in Kashmir (CPJK) 
  54. CAPJPO-EuroPalestine (France)
  55. Care for Children with Special Needs Society- Nablus
  56. Care Project Association
  57. Center for Defense of Liberties and Civil Rights
  58. Center for Laboural Studies
  59. Central Blood Bank Society
  60. Centre for Constitutional Rights (CCR)
  61. Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO)
  62. Child Care and Mother Guidance Association
  63. Crystal Palace Friends of Palestine
  64. Deir El Balah Social & Cultural Center
  65. Democracy and Workers' Rights Center
  66. Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN)
  67. Dr Haider Abdel Shafi Center for Culture and Development
  68. ECCP - European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine
  69. Economic and Social Development Center of Palestine
  70. El Amal Rehabilitation Society--Rafah
  71. El- Maghazi Cultural Center
  72. El Wafaa Charitable Society
  73. El Wedad Society for Community Rehabilitation
  74. Elia Youth Foundation
  75. European Legal Support Center (ELSC)
  76. Family Planning and Protection Association
  77. Football against Apartheid 
  78. Future Builders Forum
  79. Future Youth Foundation
  80. Gaza Community Mental Health Program
  81. Gaza Culture & Development Group
  82. General Federation of Palestinian Handicapped
  83. Ghassan Kanafani Development
  84. Giuristi Democratici
  85. Good Shepherd Collective
  86. Hadaf Center For Human Rights
  87. Hanan for Culture and Social Development Association
  88. Hawwa' Center for Culture and Arts
  89. Health, Development, Information and Policy Institute
  90. Human Rights and Democracy Media Center "Shams"
  91. Human Rights Watch
  92. Indian Association of Lawyers
  93. International Association of Democratic Lawyers
  94. International Centre of Justice for Palestinians
  95. International Commission of Jurists, the Norwegian section (ICJ Norway)
  96. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  97. Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign
  98. Jabalia Rehabilitation Society
  99. Jerusalem Legal Aid Center
  100. Jewish Network for Palestine (UK)
  101. Jewish Voice for Peace
  102. Jewish Voice for Peace Health Advisory Council
  103. Just Peace Advocates/Mouvement Pour Une Paix Juste
  104. Kairos Sabeel Foundation Netherlands
  105. Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center
  106. Khuza'a Permaculture Center Association
  107. Labor Resources Center
  108. Land Research Center
  109. Leeds Palestine Solidarity Campaign
  110. Liverpool Friends of Palestine
  111. Ma'an Development Center/Gaza
  112. Ma'an Development Center/Ramallah
  113. Medical Relief Association
  114. Mothers' School Society
  115. MRAP (Mouvement contre le Racisme et pour l'Amitié entre les Peuples)
  116. Muwatin Institute for Democracy and Human Rights
  117. National Lawyers Guild International (U.S.)
  118. National Society for Rehabilitation
  119. Nawa for Culture and Arts Association
  120. Nederlands Palestina Komitee
  121. New Weapons Research Group. Odv, Italy
  122. Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO-Norway)
  123. Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees
  124. Novact (Spain)
  125. Organización Sures
  126. Palestine Committee of Norway
  127. Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC)
  128. Palestinian Agricultural Development Association
  129. Palestinian Association for Development and Construction (PADR)
  130. Palestinian Businesswomen's Association
  131. Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA)
  132. Palestinian Center for Growth and Human Development
  133. Palestinian Center of Organic Agriculture
  134. Palestinian Centre for Human Rights
  135. Palestinian Counselling Center
  136. Palestinian Developmental Women Studies Association
  137. Palestinian Farmers Union
  138. Palestinian Hydrology Group
  139. Palestinian Society of Hemophilia Diseases
  140. Palestinian Woman’s Union
  141. Palestinian Working Women Society for Development
  142. Palestinian Youth Union
  143. PAX Organizations for Peace (PAX)
  144. Perdana Global Peace Foundation.
  145. PNGO Coalition
  146. Popular Art Centre
  147. Protecting Palestinian Families (UK)
  148. Public Aid Society
  149. Right to Live Society
  150. Rural Women’s Development Society
  151. Sadaka-the Ireland Palestine Alliance
  152. Sareyyet Ramallah-First Ramallah Group
  153. Sawa Foundation "All women are together today and tomorrow"
  154. Science & Culture Center
  155. SE London and Lewisham Friends of Palestine
  156. Sheffield Palestine Solidarity Campaign (UK)
  157. Siwar for Culture and Arts Society
  158. Society for the Care of Disabled Families
  159. Society of Remedial Education Centre
  160. Suds – Associació Internacional de Solidaritat i Cooperacció (Spain)
  161. Tamer Institute for Community Education / Gaza
  162. Teacher Creativity Center
  163. Thalassemia Patients Friends' Society
  164. The Assembly Benevolent of Operation
  165. The Culture and Free Thought Association
  166. The Democracy and Workers' Rights Centre/Gaza
  167. The Eastern Association for Agriculture
  168. The European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine (ECCP)
  169. The National Commission for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Rule of Law "Istiqlal"
  170. The National Society for Democracy and Law
  171. The Norwegian Initiative Defend International Law
  172. The Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs
  173. The Palestinian Center for Peace and Democracy
  174. The Palestinian Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession
  175. The Palestinian Hydrology Group/Gaza
  176. The Palestinian Institute for Communication and Development
  177. The Palestinian Women’s Development Center
  178. The Palestinian Working Women Society
  179. The Rights Forum
  180. The Society for Care of the Handicapped
  181. The Society of St. Yves
  182. The Society of Women Graduates in Gaza Strip
  183. Treatment and Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture
  184. Trocaire
  185. UJFP (Union juive française pour la paix) 
  186. Union of Health Care Committees
  187. Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees - Gaza.
  188. Wassel Center for Youth Development
  189. Women and Family Affairs Center
  190. Women for Life Association
  191. Women in Black Vienna, Austria
  192. Women’s Studies Centre
  193. Women's Affairs Center /Gaza
  194. Women's Affairs Technical Committee
  195. Women's Center for Legal Aid and Counselling
  196. Young Women's Christian Association
  197. Youth Development Foundation
  198. Youth Development Society

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